You need more than an RFP or the customer’s specifications to write a winning proposal. Just think about your last proposal, and all the questions you had when you started writing.
Most people focus on tangible things, like whether you’ve done certain things or have certain things. But it’s easy to account for tangible things. What you really need to start preparing a winning proposal is to know things.
Think about all those things you had to work around because you didn’t know what the customer meant, what they preferred, or which choice you should make. That’s what you really need to know.
That information makes the difference between simply responding to an RFP and showing insight. If your proposals are all about you instead of being about the customer, it’s probably because that’s all you know. The winner will be the one who knows the customer.
But “knowing the customer” is not enough. You have to know the customer well enough to answer the questions that will come up during proposal writing. Who cares if you’ve met with or talked to the customer if you can’t answer the questions you need to win?
Being able to list what you anticipate needing is the only way to improve your chances of getting it. The most important thing a proposal specialist can do to increase the chances of winning the proposal is to help people bring you the information you are going to need.
If you give them a list, they know what to look for. If you wait until the proposal starts to give them that list, they won’t have time to gather the information. You want to be able to say that when they want you to help them with a proposal, this is what they should bring you.
To prepare your list, start with the things about the customer you need to write the proposal from the customer’s perspective. To do that, you need to understand what matters to them. Here’s a list from one of our previous articles that explains what matters to your customers. Here’s another that shows how your bid strategies depend on what matters to your customer.
You also need information about them. Here’s a list from another one of our articles describing the information you need before you start your proposal.
Within PropLIBRARY, we have lists of questions, goals, and action items for people to use during the pre-RFP phase to ensure they are ready to win at RFP release. Those items can be combined into a single list to act as a gateway into the proposal process. In fact, that’s what we’re working on right now. We’re combining them to give you an off-the-shelf list for subscribers to download at the moment of need.
One of the reasons this list is so important is that it can improve your company’s bid/no bid decisions. Instead of telling people that you don’t want to bid low probability leads when the company is not prepared to win them, it puts you in the position of being able to say that you are all fired up and ready to bid every opportunity where the company can answer the questions on your list.
A few public failures at attempting to answer those questions and people will start showing up at RFP release better prepared to answer the questions. This will in turn enable you to write better proposals.
Just keep in mind that if you prepare a good list, it will be impossible for anyone to fulfill every item on it. You can never discover everything you would like to know about a customer. But having the list enables you to try, and find out more of what you need as a result. When you have some of what you need to know about the customer, even if you have a few holes, it can be enough to develop better win strategies and work around the things you couldn’t find out.
Simply preparing the list, even if no one else ever sees it (let alone complies with it), will make you a better proposal writer. It will show you the links between the customer and what needs to go in the proposal. It will help you see how to transform statements about your company into statements about how the customer will benefit from working with your company. It will help you see how to win in writing.
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Carl is the Founder and President of CapturePlanning.com and PropLIBRARY.
The materials he has published have helped millions of people develop business and write better proposals. Carl is an expert at winning in writing. He is a prolific author, frequent speaker, trainer, and consultant.
Carl can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
To find out more about him, you can also connect with Carl on LinkedIn.
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